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Nothing Really is What it Seems to Be

As a nation, I fear we have gotten lost in the digital world, with a return back to reality highly unlikely for the foreseeable future.

We have strayed a long way away from reality. Politics has become a performance art and the nightly news has become the new circus. Social media forces otherwise moderate thinkers to take extreme positions in order to enjoy the dopamine rush induced by the reactions online, and we are all being forced to face the consequences.

This departure from reality is largely to blame for the division we are currently experiencing in this country. We are no longer engaging in constructive conversations. We are putting on performances with no intention or incentive to change our minds. The more we align our views with popular narratives, the more well-received we are in the digital world. Unfortunately, that’s what matters to us most.

Imagine going to see your favorite artist perform and, amongst the tens of thousands of concert-goers in the crowd, you don’t see one person on their phone. That would be a peculiar sight, right? We are no longer here for the experience. We are here to create content so that our friends, families, and fans online can enjoy our experiences.

That’s why many of us engage in politics. It’s easy to catch up on the daily news, adopt the dictated script, and create content that forces online engagements, especially when all of the major social media platforms support your adopted view and promote engagements on your posts.

I am in no way suggesting that people need to stop engaging. There is a serious divide in this country that needs to be addressed before it’s too late, and we can only do so by having constructive conversations. I am writing this more as a warning against hyper-engaging with a lack of research and understanding of complex issues.

Many of us have seen the “Libs of TikTok” videos where young people are jeopardizing their futures by making absurd statements and revealing their hidden agendas in the workplace. The hope is that these young people will one day grow up and gain more of an understanding of the world around them. Unfortunately, online content lives forever, and people feel compelled to stand by their convictions.

One may argue that this hyper-engagement and need to take extreme positions online has stunted our growth as a society. I would argue that we have effectively declined as a society, as our thirst for knowledge and truth and our love for the freedom of speech and expression all but exists in today’s world.

There is no incentive for a large portion of our population to actively seek the truth. Accepting the national narrative will always be easier and, oftentimes, more profitable. People like Dave Chappelle, Dr. Jordan Peterson, and Joe Rogan are constantly being placed under the mainstream media’s microscope because they have the courage to question the nightly news, and they have a large enough platform to make a difference.

The lines between reality and fiction have been blurred since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s difficult to separate the performance from reality. When Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez poses for the media with her hands uncuffed behind her back – while she is being arrested by the same Capitol Police she recently accused of being January 6th insiders – it’s hard to know when we should be taking her seriously.

As a social media influencer, AOC is very successful. As a member of Congress, she is forcing people to lose faith in the institutions that she claims to hold so dear to her heart.

It’s difficult to know if we will ever return back to reality. The world moves at such a rapid pace, purposely not allowing us to process information. Instead, we rely on memes, clickbait headlines, and strategically clipped soundbites to shape who we are and how we think.

The mainstream media profits from the chaos. The circus will remain in town for as long as there is an audience eager to watch the clown show. We are too busy in our daily lives to consider multiple sides of an argument and, instead, utilize the time we have to strengthen arguments in support of the dictated script.

In exchange for all of this, we get the dopamine rush and the attention we all desperately seek.

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- Chadwick Dolgos

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